Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Century or Centuries (02/17/11)
TITLE: Centuries of Sufferings
By Edmond Ng
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- and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matthew 16:18b NAS)
When asked the question as to which book in the Bible mentions the first church, a forum participant at answers.yahoo.com replied, "I would say off the top of my head, ACTS. Let’s say it up front ... the main purpose of the Bible is to show how God worked over the centuries through the Old Testament era and into the New Testament age to bring the church into existence." In a sense, this statement by the forum participant summarizes the centuries that had taken place through the years of the Old and New Testament. The story of Jesus and His church in history however did not end at the closure of the New Testament. It continued from the first century to today and into the future for as long as we are still in the Church Age before the return of Christ.
It was in the first century when persecution broke out under the reign of Claudius Caesar (AD 41 to 54) that Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 6:8-9). After Nero took over the reign as Emperor from AD 54 to 68 (Philippians 4:22), a greater persecution continued. The apostle Peter was crucified upside down on a cross around AD 64 and the apostle Paul was executed around AD 68. For centuries after that, many more Christians suffered martyrdom under the rule of various Roman emperors. Today, many Christians in different parts of the world are still facing persecutions, especially in places where the gospel of Christ is prohibited.
On February 11, 2011, Christian Today reported three churches at Temanggung, Central Java in Indonesia were attacked by a mob of extremists on February 8 after a court judge sentenced a Christian man to five years in prison for blaspheming against another religion. On February 19, Christian Today reported the death of two Christians from separate prisons in Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa, after being refused medical treatment amid a renewed crackdown by the authorities against unregistered churches. One of the martyrs, a 27-year-old woman, was arrested after being caught reading a Bible in her bedroom. Her death came as a new wave of raids which started on New Year's Eve where more than 100 evangelical believers were detained.
All through the centuries—since the birth of the first church—numerous believers have suffered and endured persecutions. Even in countries where different faiths are tolerated and religious freedom are encouraged or enforced by law, restrictions are often still imposed on what can and cannot be said or done. Failing to abide by the rules of speech and certain actions can lead to imprisonment or even death. Of these who have suffered persecutions and endured to the end, the Bible says they will be saved and blessed (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; James 5:11).
Let us who have freedom therefore not take for granted what we have lightly. Instead, let us pray earnestly for the Lord to protect and keep those who are being persecuted standing firm, knowing that their toil is not futile (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Dear Lord, our hearts hurt to know some of our fellow brothers and sisters are suffering much for Your name’s sake. We pray O God that Your Holy Spirit may overwhelm them that they may stay steadfast and immovable going through the persecutions. For us who are free from persecutions, Lord, we earnestly pray for the ones who are suffering. Grant Your perfect peace and protect the persecuted as they endure tribulation with the assurance that nothing they do for You is ever in vain.
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